When dealing with the relationship between spirituality and madness, it is helpful to begin with the straightforward observation that medicine is a response to sickness and that the definition of sickness presupposes an understanding of what is meant by health. No doubt, health may be considered on a variety of levels, beginning with the two distinct planes of the soul and the body that are, in the Islamic Weltanschauung, the respective domains of spiritual psychology and medicine. In the context of this present essay, we focus on the former, more specifically on the relationship between the soul (nafs) and the spirit (rûh) that lies at the core of the Islamic mystical science of the soul. However, it should be emphasized from the outset that physical sickness is, according to Ibn Sina—following Empedocles and Hippocrates—the result of a rupture of equilibrium between the various “humors” of the body.1 Thus, it cannot be isolated from a wider cosmological system of correspondences between animic and physical realities that presupposes a profound connection between inner states and bodily affections. In Islamic traditional medicine, the four “humors” of the body correspond to the four cosmological elements: “black bile to earth, phlegm to water, blood to air and yellow bile to fire.”


Essential Unity Spiritual Reality Black Bile Spiritual Consciousness Yellow Bile 
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© Patrick Laude 2005

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  • Patrick Laude

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